The Mr. Basketball award is the biggest basketball honor for a high school senior and this year, Jesse White made history — putting his small town of White Shield on the map.
“It felt good, I felt a little down my back because of all the hard work I put in my whole entire life and it’s kind of paying off but I just thought to myself that I ain’t done yet!” said White.
“I was astonished, it was surreal, I was so happy and it took away the sting of the regional championship game loss but I was very proud of being from White Shield, knowing Jesse and working with him and being Native American,” added Assistant Coach Sheldon Rush.
“He was on a level of his own and I believe that he is the best basketball player in the state so when I got the news it wasn’t a surprise, it was something I expected,” said Head Coach Brad Kroupa.
During the season, White became the second all-time scorer in North Dakota history — but he says it is bigger than his accomplishments.
“I didn’t really think of being the number two basketball scorer of all time or anything like that, it just kind of came and slowly came along so it’s just a blessing to me from God. Just because I love the game of basketball and just playing it,” said White. “It feels good for me to get recognition and show that the young kids from my tribe that they can do it too. Things like that always inspire me and seeing kids around our community walk around and working out and stuff like that, that makes me happy so just having an impact in that is really a good thing.”
“This year we truly saw a breakthrough in his leadership on the basketball court, leadership in the sense of inspiring others and them wanting to follow. Other players wanting to follow Jesse and for him to raise their level and he started to raise the level of his teammates around him and it was slow progress but he was getting there and I think we saw the best at the end of the season,” said Coach Kroupa.
With all the success for White, Rush says it wasn’t an easy road for him growing up.
“He shows that just because we come from bad things doesn’t mean we have to accept that way whenever we grow up, so he does mean an awful lot to our community, especially to our youth who are going through the same struggle as him, in terms of handicap,” added Rush.
“I put in the work so much because I have a little sister and little kids looking up to me and especially for my mom because she is not always able to be around so I just want to give her the best life that I can,” said White.
White could have gone to a bigger school to get more exposure and play better competition, but he chose to stick it out and stay in White Shield.
“I love my people so much and it feels good but I put in a lot of work and I just want to continue to keep working hard to show kids that there is a way to do things in life,” said White.
Many say White means a lot to the White Shield community, but Kroupa says it’s bigger than basketball.
“I think it means a lot to give our community hope again to say that if you put your nose down and do the grind, stonework things can be done. I think it gives our community hope and a future that we come from good things and we can lead to good things,” said Rush.
“I got to lead by example because not a lot of kids on the reservation have people to look up to so I just want to be that person. For generations to come, I cant wait to see more young kids come up and get better and better,” said White.
“To see his impact goes beyond that basketball court like he’s inspired from the youth to the adults, White Shield at the district tournament game, the fans won the 6th player in the stand award but he gave, and this team gave, White Shield a reason to believe and just be excited about something and it was an amazing special season,” said Kroupa.
Kroupa feels White has only scratched the surface of who he is going to become as a player — and we haven’t seen the best Jesse White yet.
“Hopefully keep going as far as I can with the game of basketball and by the time I get to where I want to be, hopefully, a pro overseas, NBA anything like that, I want to come back and give back to my community. I definitely want to coach one day, my coaches Brad Kroupa and Sheldon Rush, they made me fall in love with the X’s and O’s so much, so now thats all I want to do whenever I’m older is coach,” said White.
“So when you truly get to know Jesse, he is a kid that you can look up to and admire for both his in the classroom, prioritizing academics as well as how he has emerged as a leader on the court and other players have started to want to follow him and he has directly impacted and raised the level of their game,” added Kroupa.